Marathon Pacing: Tips to Pace Yourself


A pace is a natural step or a step that is 30 inches long. For runners, pace refers to understanding your body and regulating your energy levels so you do not tire out too early and possibly expose yourself to the risk of sustaining an injury. Pacing is a critical component to running long distances and anyone training to run marathons is advised to include pacing sessions in his or her training modules.

What is a Pacing Session?

Marathon pace training session

Marathon pacing session are specially designed training sessions specifically for distance running. It involves learning to keep a keen eye on your heart rate and other biometrics using a monitor, learning and understanding your Perceived Exertion (PE), getting to know your optimal sustainable pacing rate, and how outside elements such as weather, temperature, altitude, humidity, and terrain can affect your performance during a run.

There are other factors that can affect your pace like fatigue and dehydration which is why experts recommend training blocks to help you reach your optimum performance level. Training blocks limit you to certain exercises, cycles and movements. Shifting to a harder training block should only be done when you have mastered the previous one. This helps a runner avoid training fatigue, elevated heart rate, and injuries.

To be more specific, let’s suppose your next marathon is a 10k event and your target is to finish it under 40 minutes. This means you need to target a running pace of about 6 minutes and 30 seconds for every mile. If you want to a more specific target pace, you might want to consider acquiring a pace calculator app or tool.

A Typical Marathon Pacing Session

Marathon pacing track session

Coaches like to use a track to train a runner in pacing. It has fewer variables and is easier to measure times and distances. If you can find an oval somewhere close by, that would be great.

Start with a warm-up and stretching. If you have time, stretch everything from neck down but if you are tight for time, concentrate on your calves, hamstrings, and hips.

Follow this up with a one-mile warm up lap, no time pressure but record the mile time. Often knowing that the time is ticking makes runners push themselves. This is part of training – learning to slow down and knowing when to pick up the pace. For the warm-up lap, even with the clock ticking, runners have to learn discipline in holding back.

If this is your first marathon pacing session, have just one training block to work on. This means up to 3 runs with 2 minute rest in between. Once this basic training block has been mastered, build up to 10 runs slowly to avoid fatigue. Fatigue will be obvious once your form and technique start to change for the worse.

Always end your marathon pacing or long distance session with a cool-down period which is a slow-paced 1 mile run, stretching, refuelling with small snacks and water. In addition, it would be a good idea to have record each pacing session and analyze each session before you go on your next training run. This should include recording lessons learned about your strengths, weaknesses, improvements in pacing, and addressing biomechanical issues, if any.

Valuable Marathon Pacing Tips to Keep You Going

Did you know that studies show that 90% of marathon runners tend to slow down after breaching the midpoint mark? For better results, pacing is highly recommended. Here are a few tips on how to pace yourself during training and during a marathon event.

Marathon Pacing Tip #1 Dispelling the Myth of “Saving Energy”

Many runners think that pacing is “saving energy.” It’s not that at all. Avoid thinking of pacing as running slower or running faster. Instead have a target pace for the first half and another target pace for the second half. This way, you avoid mental and emotional blocks that could result in a slower time or not finishing at all. At all times, try to maintain control over your marathon pace and the decision you make to increase or decrease your pace.

Marathon Pacing Tip #2 Be Fearless but Cautious

Pacing is not holding back for fear of not doing well or not finishing. Pacing is understanding your body so you know how much energy is needed to finish; when to push your body and when to hold back. Thus, with proper pacing training, you will not be afraid to slow down nor will you fear coming up empty when you need that extra burst of energy to finish.

Marathon Pacing Tip #3 Set Time Goals

The reason it is important to have time goals because it helps runners finish. A difference of 10 seconds is a huge deal especially for longer distances and when you fall behind before reaching the halfway mark, you might mentally beat yourself up and perform poorly on the second half. With time goals, you get to associate target paces and this is a morale booster for a runner because it allows you to simply remind yourself to step up your pace a notch or two.

Of course, once you experience running in several events, your memory banks will be the best source of data on time goals. You can train on besting your last time for a specific distance.

Marathon Pacing Tip #4 Train for Different Distances

How about training to run different distances? Mentally, this will help you cope with longer distances and perform better on shorter distances. With every race or run you do, you subconsciously calculate in your mind the time, distance, and energy you need so by training for different distances, your brain broadens and passing the midpoint in a run will not cause you to slow down, physically or mentally.

Marathon Pacing Tip #5 Study the Course

Finally, the terrain, course, and distance are all important factors in marathon pacing. For example, if you have to run uphill, your energy level should pick up to maintain your pace and vice versa for downhill. Knowing what’s coming up will help you plan and adjust accordingly so you are able to maintain your target pace.

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